What makes someone an “expert?”15014282_s-200x137

When I was a very young man, graduating high school, I thought I was an expert on some things. At least, I spoke like I was an expert on some things.

Then I went to college, and I realized I didn’t know so many things. It took a while. And there were plenty of other students were who were struggling with the same realization. Many students, I don’t think ever made the realization. They never stopped believing they were experts about something.

I left college and with a degree under my belt, I felt like I had the right to consider myself a real expert. I was ready to take on the world and the world would benefit from my expertise.

I think you can see where this is going already, can’t you?

You know what we have a lot of today? What we have a real surplus of?

Self-appointed experts.

Let me explain.

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There is a particular kind of mistake that almost all of us make at some point.

I made the mistake when I went back to visit my old high school after I had been away at college.

Maybe you visited your childhood home.

Or you visited an old workplace.

And part of you expects the people or the places to not have changed. We somehow think that the people or the places will be like Cheers, where everyone still knows your name.

We are driven by nostalgia back to these important places. We get homesick for these old parts of our lives. But then when we go back, we find that the world changed. It moved on without us. I found out that I wasn’t supposed to care about my high school after I graduated. Maybe you realized that the old house where you grew up is no longer your home. Maybe we even feel nostalgic about relationships, or phases in our relationships. We wish for the days when we were newlyweds. Or maybe when we are older, we yearn for the days when the kids were still at home. We think about the holiday gatherings from our childhoods and feel a tinge of disappointment year after year because the holidays don’t measure up anymore.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It sells billions of dollars of products to millennials. It sells movie sequels and remakes. It sells merchandise based on brands from the 80s.

The thing about nostalgia is that it is also kind of a liar. Nostalgia needs those rose-colored glasses that humans love to wear so much. It needs us to remember things more fondly than we felt at the time, to filter out all of the bad and just remember the good.

Humans are remarkable at filtering their pasts, aren’t they? But we have to remember that when we feel nostalgic, we aren’t yearning for something that can be acquired anymore. It’s just a memory. 

We have to remember that we can spend our lives trying to recapture the good old days, and we will be unsuccessful. Or we can spend our days realizing that one day, we will be nostalgic for this time.

We are in the good old days today.

We will be nostalgic for this place we call home and the people in our lives now. 

home

So we can waste our days yearning to go back to some mythical home. Or we can realize the gift that we have and be nostalgic for today.

It’s been a good week over here. I hope you can say the same.

This weekend, Cheri and I will be visited by a photographer for a local “lifestyle” magazine as they do a story on us and the book. I’m pretty nervous because up to this moment, I did not think we had a “lifestyle,” and if we did, I would not assume it’s very photogenic. But we are still excited. We’ll dress the little man up and pretend he always looks that formal!

This week, there were plenty of things that challenged, enriched and grabbed my attention. Here are the highlights.

In My Netflix Queue

Cheri and I have been watching House of Cards, and loving it. But you know that television has gotten pretty…well, serious. Everything seems to heavy now. So sometimes, I need to take a break and watch something like popcorn fare, and I finally tried watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I gotta say, it’s pretty entertaining, and the opening theme song (the first I’ve heard in years that features actual lyrics) is pretty darn catchy.

In My Blog Reader

Just as interesting as Kimmy Schmidt is the first thing that I noticed this week, written by a former cult member, I’m Kimmy Schmidt, Minus the Unbreakable. Elizabeth Esther, who I’ve read for a long time, breaks down what the show gets right in its brief depictions of cults, and where it differs from reality.

Erin Lane just launched her book, Confessions of Belonging From a Church-Going Committment-Phobe and now she is launching a blog series called #OneGoodChurch. While seven million people each year become religiously unaffiliated, it should be an interesting series over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Lisa-Jo Baker talks about the art of being a good neighbor, and how to, well, uncomplicate it. Sometimes we just overthink things.

In more newsy stories, I personally raised my fist in victory at the news that LifeWay stores will stop selling all books in the dubious “heaven visitation” genre. I don’t always agree with what the company does, but I think the dead-person-coming-back-from-heaven genre is a plague and a lie, so I’m glad to see it become a little bit more difficult for the people peddling that tripe.

Marshall Segal, a writer’s name I didn’t recognize, writes about the idolatry of theology, and gives ten questions that we can ask ourselves about our own. And finally, Bonnie Gray finishes the week by discussing why we need quiet time, and really delving into the discipline of quiet, in our quiet-starved world.

That’s it from me. See you next week!

“If you were going to become OCD, what kind of OCD would you be?” I asked my wife the other day.peas-lined-up-in-a-row

I had just been watching “Obsessed” on Netflix. It’s all about people with obsessive compulsive disorder. The question seemed like a good way to know a little bit more about my wife. If she were going to lose her mind and go crazy, what kind of crazy would she be?

She thought a moment. She wasn’t sure.

I thought for a moment too and came up with the answer.

“You’d be a hoarder.”

She agreed. The truth is that Cheri is already a borderline hoarder. It is only by my constant pressure that her stuff stays in check and does not take over the house. I’m like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam, except the dam is holding crap instead of water.

She asked me the same question and I knew right away what the answer was.

The thing is, most of us aren’t OCD, but every single human being on the planet is dealing with the same problem as anyone who happens to end up on a reality cable show.

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What does it mean to be a winner?

When we were kids, the rules were simple. Beat the other team. Score more points. Run faster. Practice harder.

Then you walk by the other team and say “good game” and slap hands.

When I was a young adult, I thought the rules had stayed the same. If there were no points to score, then I had to just make people think I was a winner, that I was smarter or better or more talented. Isn’t that what the whole exercise of interviewing for a job is all about? Convincing someone that you are a winner, without actually performing?

It kind of goes hand in hand with the whole “self esteem” movement, this think like a winner thing.

It’s even in the church isn’t it?

What does it take for a church to win?

Beat everyone else. Have a bigger team. Attract more people. Have better programs and a more impressive show. Think like a winner and you will be a winner.

The problem is that eventually, we start to get this itchy feeling even though we think of ourselves as winners. We start to feel a little phony. We start to not buy our own hype. Because being a human being on planet Earth isn’t really about winner. Being a Christian is about death to self. And just because you’re winning at the game of life, it doesn’t make you a winner. 

winner

 

The rest of what Sydney Harris has to say is that a loser to consumed with the appearance of expertise.

It starts with ourselves, you know. Everyone else buys our hype. But we don’t have to. We don’t have to pretend that we have ourselves all put together. We don’t have to believe that we have made it. We can believe that we still have a lot to learn.

That lots to learn part is what makes life worth it.

Spring Break!

This week has, to be honest, flown by. With an anniversary celebration, Spring cleaning, and full days with the kiddo, the days have slipped away quickly. It was a week to be outside in the record warmth and sunshine, and then inside with the dreary gray rain.

Still, there were plenty of “unproductive” moments (kids tend to create a lot of those) when I found things that fueled, challenged and encouraged me.

On the Radio

Last Saturday, my episode of Building Relationships aired with Gary Chapman. We talked about keeping marriages together through a season of infertility or miscarriage. I’ve done quite a few radio talks, but I have to say I’m particularly proud of the hour I spent talking to this great man.

In My Blog Reader

In my blog reader, Micha Boyett talks about the discipline of choosing love and humility over being right. This has got to be one of the most neglected disciplines in our churches today. Really, if we were on a desert island, how many little groups and churches would we have come up with to keep our doctrine “pure?”

I’ve been following Addie Zierman as she traveled through Armenia with World Vision (my own trip to Uganda with World Help has made me much more interested in reading about other writers’ journeys.) This week, she kind of recapped pieces of the story and reflected on the whole event.

I have been reflecting on my adult life, which has lasted roughly twelve years or so and the kinds of advice I wish I could go back and give myself. Constantine Campbell gives five pieces of advice to young men that are spot on.

Anne Marie Miller has become a warrior for parents talking to kids about very contemporary issues. This week was the site Omegle. Of course, these conversations are very far away for me and my child, but God knows what I’ll have to talk to him about. I hope I still have the courage to do so when the time comes.

Finally, two dovetailing blogs. We can talk a long time about the sins of our society and what we need to repent of. From ReKnew, a call to repent from the sin of religion, and from Sean Palmer, a more detailed explanation of why Legalism is an illusion. Great stuff.

That’s all for me. I will see you on the other side of the weekend!